Skin cancer is a disease that affects millions of people every year. While most forms of this cancer are caused by environmental factors, there are some forms that are caused by mutations in our genes that we have inherently developed. Those who are from a family that has been diagnosed with melanoma are up to three times more likely to develop the cancer in their lifetime. There are a few genes that are responsible for the development of melanoma and in this paper I will seek to explore the causes and factors involved in melanoma as well as our varying pigmentation.
The genes and mutations responsible for melanoma are as follows. These genes are germ-line, which means they are passed from parent to child. CDKN2A: this gene is the most commonly mutated in genetically-inherited melanoma but still presents in those with those diagnosed with non-genetic melanoma. This mutation causes misshapen and dark moles and is often diagnosed early in life. MC1R: this gene is the one responsible for determining a person’s sensitivity to light. It also plays a key role in determining red hair color, fair skin and ability to tan. Those with darker skin have more than one of these genes and tend to develop skin cancer more frequently.
MDM2: more prevalent mutations in women diagnosed with cancer, this gene determines how many copies are made within a cell and is exaggerated by a predisposition to UV sensitivity. BRF, P16, EGF and Fas are genes that are mutated by environmental factors and are predominately forced into mutation by exposure to UV light. In addition to genes, we also have melanin that is present in our bodies that is a determining factor in the color of our hair, skin and eyes. While everyone has melanin in their cells, the amount from person to person is not equal. The more melanin present in your skin, the darker your complexion will be.
The different types of melanin present in the iris produce pigmentation there, and these factors are largely dependent on the coloration of your biological parents. For someone who has a predisposition to UV sensitivity, I would highly recommend that they avoid prolonged UV exposure. If they do decide to go out in the sun I would suggest that they use a high powered sun block to avoid burning, as those who have a blistering burn up their chances of developing melanoma hugely. Lastly I would suggest that they completely avoid tanning beds and lying out, and make sure to maintain a skin regimen that protects their already vulnerable cells to the mutations that cause this common cancer.
DeChiara, T. (2009, May 04). An Introduction to Cancer Genetics and Melanoma. Retrieved January 18, 2013, from About.com: http://skincancer.about.com/od/riskfactors/a/melanoma_genes.htm Genetic Control – On and Off Genes. (2000, January 1). Retrieved January 18, 2013, from Biology Online: http://www.biology-online.org/3/1_genetic_control.htm
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